It's no secret that Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) and Samsung (NASDAQOTH:SSNLF) are bitter mobile enemies. The two compete the most in the competitive smartphone space, where they both have earned bragging rights. Apple is riding high with its most successful iPhones to date, selling a record number of units in fiscal Q1 2015 and seeing record smartphone revenues in China, its largest market.
Meanwhile, Samsung has retained its worldwide largest smartphone vendor title, outselling all other phone makers, except for the quarter directly after the iPhone 6 launched (You can't win 'em all!). But Samsung's mobile profits have been beaten down by Apple's success as of late, and a few missteps with the latest Galaxy S smartphones have left the company struggling to find its footing again.
That's why the news that Samsung and Apple are working in collaboration to help develop an embedded SIM (or, eSIM) card standard may come as somewhat of a surprise. The Financial Times reported last week that the two companies are working with the GSMA -- the movie association that helps establish standards for technology like this -- to create an in-device SIM card that could run on any carrier, without having to be switched out.
If it all pans out, it means that the two mobile powerhouses will put aside some of their differences to fight against a common enemy: the inability for their customers to easily switch carriers.
What's so great about embedded SIMs?
SIMs are small electronic cards that allow your smart device to connect to a cellular network. Each carrier has their own cards and when users want to switch carriers they either need to get a new SIM or get a new phone altogether.
This switching barrier can leave some consumers unwilling to take their current device to a new carrier. And since Samsung and Apple want users to be happy with their devices, the two companies want their customers to be able to take those phones to whichever carrier they want, when they want, without hassle.
The idea is not entirely a new one. Apple launched its own eSIM in the iPad Air 2 and iPad Mini 3 last year, in an attempt to do the same thing. But that technology didn't have widespread acceptance.
The new eSIM standards are more likely to take off this time because the GSMA is developing the tech along with Apple, Samsung and a host of wireless carriers, as opposed to just Apple doing it by itself. The GSMA said back in March that AT&T, Deutsche Telekom (the parent company of T-Mobile), NTT DOCOMO, Orange, Telefónica, Vodafone and others support the new standard.
When can we expect these fancy eSIMs?
If it all goes through, Samsung and Apple could add embedded SIMs into their devices within a year, allowing consumers to switch carriers as they choose.
Obviously, a move like this won't add new revenue into either of the companies' coffers. But the eSIMs would add a little bit of value to smart devices by making them easier for consumers to use as they want. Apple's already shown it wants this technology in its devices, and this time around it's willing to work with Samsung and others to make it a reality. That means consumers could start easily jumping from carrier to carrier sometime later next year -- a somewhat terrifying thought for the wireless industry.
Chris Neiger has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Apple and Orange (ADR). The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.